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USL Eastern Conference Progress Report

by Marissa Blackman

In writing about USL, I’ve had two reoccurring questions about almost every team. From the beginning of the season, I’ve been thinking about the playoffs.  Although every team in the eastern conference has completed 9-12 matches, it’s still a little early to say for sure which clubs will or will not make it above that red line. Nevertheless, I’d like to make a few predictions. Too often, I find myself thinking of clubs in terms that simply are not solid enough, so I set out to find a basis, beyond my opinions, to view teams in respects to each other and to predict where they will be at the end of the season.

I made two charts to compare each team and their prospects side by side. The chart below shows where each team stands currently and includes conference averages. In both charts, teams appear in order of their current USL standings

Team
Current Points
Percentage of Games Won
Maximum Points Possible
Rochester Rhinos
25
64%
76
Charleston Battery
23
50%
71
Richmond Kickers
22
50%
70
Louisville City
17
40%
71
Pittsburgh
16
36%
67
Harrisburg
14
44%
71
St. Louis
13
30%
67
NYRB II
13
25%
61
Charlotte
9
22%
66
TFC II
9
20%
63
Wilmington
7
9%
58
FC Montreal
4
11%
61
Average
14
33%
67

Next, I attempted to predict how many points each club will have attained by the end of the regular season. To come to my conclusions, I began with each clubs current win percentage. I also factored in the relative difficulty of each clubs schedule. To turn that into a numerical value, I assigned each club a number 1-12 corresponding to its rank in current eastern conference standings. Each match yet to be played was assigned a number according to the team it will be against and the sum of those values shows the difficulty of each clubs schedule. Lower numbers denote harder schedules, and higher numbers signify less difficult schedules. Charleston Battery has the hardest schedule and FC Montreal has the easiest. Since those numbers could be influenced by the varying number of games the clubs have left to play, I also found the average of each of the rest of the season difficulty results. All of those averages turned out to be either six or seven.


Team
Rest of Season Difficulty
Average game Difficulty
Games Left
Win Percentage used for prediction
Predicted end of Season points
Rochester
112
7
17
60%
57
Charleston
98
6
16
47%
51
Richmond
102
6
16
50%
50
Louisville
119
7
18
43%
46
Pittsburgh
125
7
17
36%
40
Harrisburg
113
6
19
40%
44
STLCFC
117
7
18
30%
35
NYRB
116
6
16
25%
31
Charlotte
124
7
19
25%
31
Toronto
121
7
18
20%
28
Wilmington
119
7
17
12%
21
FC Montreal
128
7
19
13%
21
Averages
116
NA
NA
33%
38

Based on past performance and other factors, I either added to, subtracted from, or used a team’s current games won percentage. I multiplied the number of games left by that percentage, and hypothesized that half of the games left would be ties and half losses.
I know that’s confusing, so here’s an example.

Currently, Saint Louis FC has won 30% of its games, and I saw no reason to add or subtract from that number.  30% of 18 (the remaining games the club will play) is 5.4, so I rounded down to 5. Hence my prediction is that Saint Louis will win 5 more games, and I added 15 points to the current amount of points  (13) that STLFC has. Since there are still 13 (18-5=13) games left unaccounted for, I counted half of those matches (for STLFC 6.5 which I rounded to 7) as draws for every club. All of that led me to my predictions that STLFC will have 35 (13 (current points) + 15 (points from predicted wins) + 7 (points from predicted draws) = 35 (predicted end of season total) )points by the season’s end.

For other teams, my I tinkered with the actual win percentage (by no more than 4 points at the most) to come up with the one used to make end of season predictions. Here are the reasons:


  • Rochester Rhinos- This is a team at the top, and I don’t think any team will sustain Rochester’s level of play all season. Hence I decreased the win percentage from 64% to 60%.
  • Charleston Battery- Although this team wins frequently, it is often by one goal. In theory, some of the teams at the bottom will start to improve by the end of the season, making one goal too narrow of a gap for victory. Hence I decreased the win percentage from 50% to 47%
  • Richmond- This is a solid team, but they draw often. I kept the percentage at 50%
  • Louisville- This club has scored in all but matches and only lost once. I predict they will improve, so I increased the percentage from 40% to 43%
  • Pittsburgh- I did not change Pittsburgh’s percentage. This is a high scoring club, but it is also a club that has dropped points to teams lower than itself in the table.
  • Harrisburg- I decreased the percentage from 44% to 40% most of the club’s victories are against bottom of the table teams.
  • Saint Louis- The club doesn’t win often but regularly takes one point away from matches. I thought 30%, the actual percentage, was a good predictor.
  • New York Red Bulls II- The club has mixed results, so I saw no need to change the percentage from 25%.
  • Charlotte Independence- The current results are all over the place, but the club’s schedule includes several weeks of playing the same teams back to back. Especially considering some of the top of the table clubs Charlotte has beaten, the team has displayed enough capability to capitalize on at least some of those opportunities. I increased the percentage from 22% to 25%.
  • Toronto FC II- I saw nothing in the club’s schedule to make me change the percentage.
  • Wilmington Hammerheads FC- This is the team that I watch most often. In the past few games, I’ve noticed a steady progression of improvement in level of play. While the results have not always reflected this improvement, they inevitably will. I increased the percentage from 9% to 12%.
  • FC Montreal- This club has only won once (against a top of the table teams), but with 8 goals in 9 games they’ve shown they’re capable of scoring. I’d like to think they will improve so I increased the percentage 11% to 13%.

Perhaps the numbers mean nothing to everyone else, but it provides me with some way, flawed as it may be, to measure the clubs in the eastern conference against each other. I sincerely hope that all the teams get far more points than I have predicted.

The competition is nowhere close to being over, and, believe it or not, the table is actually close. For example, the Hammerheads are currently in 11th place, but one win could put the club in 9th place. There are only three points separating the top three teams.

Perhaps I will make a similar post about the western conference. Regardless of these numbers, this certainly has been an entertaining season so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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